Seahawks film room: How Russell Wilson got baited
The Pick-Six That Did in Seattle at Chicago
Seattle’s chances of winning at Chicago on Monday night went up in smoke when Russell Wilson’s short pass to the left intended for running back Rashaad Penny was intercepted by Bears’ cornerback Prince Amukamara and returned 49 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 24-10 lead in the fourth quarter.
“He just took a shot at it and he was right and he made a great play,” Carroll said of Amukamara. “He made a perfect play.”
Wilson wouldn’t elaborate must on the play after the game, stating only that Amukamara, “put a foot in the ground and made a good play. That’s what it was.”
Amukamara, however, had plenty to say about the play and what tipped him off on the route, leading to his interception.
Here is a breakdown of the play that cemented Seattle’s 24-17 loss at Chicago.
Frame A: Amukamara spots a trend
Seattle, down 17-10 in the fourth with 6:47 remaining and facing a second down with nine yards to go at its own 46, came out with three receivers to the right, one to the left and Penny in the backfield. However, Penny almost immediately shifts wide left to become the No. 1 receiver on that side of the formation outside of wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Amukamara immediately takes notice of the shift by Penny and that the Seahawks are now in a five-receiver set with an empty backfield.
Frame B: Film study leads to big play
Once Penny shifted outside, Seattle was done for. Amukamara later said that the empty backfield with Penny lined up at receiver tipped him off to the upcoming play, a short hitch route to Penny. “That was one of the routes that we have on our tip sheet,” Amukamara said. According to Amukamara, one of the defensive test questions during the week revolved around this Seattle formation.
“I’m glad I paid attention and studied,” he said.
Note that Amukamara is standing on the Chicago 47-yard line, giving Penny a nine-yard cushion to make the hitch route appear very attractive to Wilson. Amukamara knows he has safety help just in case Penny runs deep. This allows Amukamara to feel more comfortable about the risk he is about to take.
Frame C: Seattle ran same play at Denver
Now let’s take a look at why Amukamara was so sure about what was coming by taking a look at Seattle’s Week 1 loss at Denver.
The Seahawks, in the second quarter, showed Denver the exact same look with Penny shifting wide left to become the No. 1 receiver in a five-receiver formation. Seattle also ran virtually the exact same play.
Denver is in a slightly different coverage with the cornerbacks and free safety showing a three deep zone. Both cornerbacks are certainly looking at the quarterback and not the receiver, typically an indication of a zone defense.
Note that Denver right cornerback Adam Jones is giving Penny a nine-yard cushion.
Amukamara, no doubt, watched this play on video during the week.
Frame D: Denver concedes hitch route
At the snap of the ball, Jones is at the 17-yard line as Penny starts pushing at him.
Wilson is clearly looking to his left in anticipation of Penny being open given his route and the cushion provided by Jones.
This is easy-pickings for the Seahawks but only because Jones is pushed deeper by Penny's initial burst.
Frame E: Easy completion
By the time Penny stops his route and Wilson releases the pass, Jones has dropped all the way back to the 21-yard line with his left foot before making a break on the pass.
At the bottom of the photo, wide receiver Jaron Brown has created a four-yard cushion between him and the cornerback. That’s not quite as enticing as the six-yard separation Penny has from Jones.
Long story short, Penny catches the pass with a charging Jones about two yards away and eludes the tackle attempt before being taken down by linebacker Todd Davis for an easy six-yard pickup.
Frame F: Wilson fails to recognize coverage
Now back to Chicago…
Seattle is running a very similar play to what it ran in Denver with a couple of receivers varying their routes. But, the receiver to the right, Jaron Brown, and Penny both run hitch routes just as they did in Denver.
Amukamara sees this coming a mile away. Remember that in Frame B, Amukamara stood at the Chicago 47. Here, Penny has already started his route directly at Amukamara, who takes just one step backward with his right foot while his body remains at the 47. He essentially isn’t backing off at all. He stands his ground because he believes he knows what’s coming.
Wilson’s mistake here is that he is watching Penny and not Amukamara. Penny should be irrelevant to Wilson because he knows where he is going. The read here is not Penny, it’s the defender covering Penny and whether or not he provides the necessary cushion to complete the throw. Amukamara does not.
Frame G: Amukamara reads Wilson's eyes
Amukamara said he read Wilson’s eyes to see where he was going with the ball and the Pro Bowl quarterback did nothing to throw off the cornerback.
“He was looking over there and then I saw the receiver and you just trust it and you just go,” Amukamara said.
Wilson not only should have noticed that Amukara never backed off, he also should have seen safety Adrian Amos Jr. at the numbers providing deep help making it more likely Amukamara wouldn’t be pushed deep.
Essentially, both defenders gave away the coverage but Wilson failed to recognize it. Instead, he figured he had an easy completion based on Amukamara’s previous alignment and not on his movement, which was next to nothing, allowing him to be in position to jump the hitch route.
Frame H: Gamble pays off for Chicago
This is almost too easy. Amukamara arrives at Penny before the ball does and makes an easy interception.
The play never had a chance. Although, a savvy wide receiver might have felt Amukamara’s presence and that he didn’t drop and make a move forward to come get the ball before the cornerback did. Instead, Penny actually ran a lazy hitch route and drifted just a tad.
Still, the interception is on Wilson for not reading Amukamara and the cornerback for knowing what was coming.
Frame I: To the house
Amukamara got such a good jump on the ball that he was able to reach full speed almost immediately after catching the pass.
That gave Penny no real shot at chasing him down. Wilson tried to make a play on Amukamara. But, the former high school running back cut back on Wilson before gliding into the end zone to all but end the game.
This was uncharacteristically sloppy by Wilson, who usually takes great care of the football. He hadn't thrown an interception that was returned for a touchdown in years.
But by not paying closer attention to the coverage, Wilson fell into the trap of a cornerback that had done his homework.